Six years is an eternity in pop music, and that’s how long it’s been since Nelly Furtado released her last English-language studio album. Loose turned the folksy Canadian singer into a dance/pop powerhouse, thanks to some powerful collaborations with Timbaland and an ’80s centric sound on hits like “Promiscuous” and “Say It Right,” both of which topped the U.S. pop chart.
Nelly hasn’t been totally quiet since Loose completed its chart run. She released Mi Plan, her first Spanish language LP, and also issued a greatest hits compilation (somewhat prematurely, IMO.) However, these were niche releases, not expected to appeal to a wide pop audience. The Spirit Indestructible is the album that’s slated to be her next big pop statement-unfortunately, it doesn’t deliver.
I knew something was up when her record label burned three singles pre-release without gaining any traction. None of the songs-the title track, “Parking Lot” or “Big Hoops (Bigger the Better)”-attracted radio of the attention of the public-and with good reason. While the former song serves up some of the multi-culti earnestness that would have been a logical progression from Nelly pre-Loose, it doesn’t have a ton of Top 40 appeal. “Big Hoops” cleverly references many ’90s hip-hop and R&B touchstones, but is fairly flat from a musical standpoint. Meanwhile, the less space we waste on “Parking Lot,” the better. The song is so horrible, it makes Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” sound like Joni Mitchell by comparison.
Disco Dolly Nelly and Hippy Dippy Nelly seem to be completely at odds over the course of this album, and the former incarnation is definitely at a disadvantage. That’s partially because Nelly sounds more comfortable on songs like the Middle Eastern-flavored “Believers (Arab Spring)” and the melodic “Bucket List” than she does on some of the more frenetic cuts. That’s also because Timbaland (and his former associate Nate “Danja” Hills, who probably deserves most of the credit for Timbo’s second wind) is absent. I’m not sure why Mr. Mosley declined to participate this time around (his Mosley Music logo is on the album copy,) but he’s more or less been replaced by Rodney Jerkins. The “Darkchild” is five if not ten years past his sell-by date, and very few of the tracks they work on together have any flavor. They’re not bad, per se: just boring. It only gets totally intolerable when Jerkins brings aboard his latest untalented rapping protege, Ace Primo, on the track “High Life.”
The stench from the Furtado/Jerkins collaborations spreads over to her work with other producers as well. Salaam Remi and Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos are both supremely talented, but even their songs on The Spirit Indestructible fall flat. Even a hot 16 bars from Nas can’t save “Something,” one of the Remi-helmed tracks.
At 18 tracks, The Spirit Indestructible would’ve been too long even if it was a fairly good album. Without very many good songs, it turns out to be a quite challenging listen. I had high hopes, and was quite disappointed. Unless you’re a hardcore Nelly Furtado fan (assuming she even has those,) you’ll probably end up disappointed to. Look for this one to disappear from the charts with a quickness.
Bonus beats: Taglines provided by fellow Popblerd writer May when I told him how I felt about the album:
“I wish this album was like a bird so it would fly away.”
“Her spirit may be indestructible, but this CD should be.”
“Should be called Nelly Fer-turd-o.”
Applaud this genius-those three sentences are more creative and enjoyable than the whole 18 songs on that damn album.